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Ohio State Football: Potential Replacements for Buckeyes' Departing Seniors on D

COLUMBUS, OH - NOVEMBER 03: John Simon #54 and Nathan Williams #43, both of the Ohio State Buckeyes, combine to sack Nathan Scheelhaase #2 of the Illinois Illini on November 3, 2012 at Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Ohio. Ohio State defeated Illinois 52-22. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)
Kirk Irwin/Getty Images
Tim BielikSenior Analyst IDecember 6, 2012

To say Ohio State's defense is going to lose quite a bit is an understatement. The Buckeyes have six departing seniors on defense, and could potentially lose two more if Johnathan Hankins and/or Bradley Roby decide to leave early for the NFL.

At this moment, the only players guaranteed to return are LB Ryan Shazier and safeties C.J. Barnett and Christian Bryant.

If Hankins decided to leave early, the Buckeyes will have to replace their entire starting defensive line, which is no small task.

OSU has some depth up front with experienced backups Michael Bennett and Joel Hale, and talented second-year prospects Noah Spence, Adolphus Washington and Tommy Schutt.

Spence, Washington and Schutt all saw action as freshmen in 2012, but Washington far and away was the most impactful player of the three. Washington will likely start at DT barring injury, and Schutt has enough experience to push for the other starting job.

Spence saw a lot of action during the season, but only had one sack in his freshman season, which came in the opener against Miami (Ohio). He may start at DE, but will need to become stronger.

The linebacker position is much more confusing even with one spot filled.

OSU's linebacker depth is a huge question mark as evidenced by the fact that it flipped Zach Boren from fullback to middle linebacker and he is making a big impact on the field.

Curtis Grant started the season at MLB, but fell out of the rotation after the first few weeks of the season. Freshman Josh Perry saw some action when Etienne Sabino went down with injury, and showed plenty of promise.

Other young linebackers like Camren Williams and David Perkins had a decent impact on special teams, but will also compete for starting jobs.

The linebacker position has been inconsistent for the last two seasons with the exception of Shazier and he needs some help. That will have to come in the spring.

In the secondary, the top contender for Travis Howard's spot will likely be junior Doran Grant, who had plenty of reps as the nickel corner last season. Grant was a blue-chip recruit two years ago, and definitely has the ability to be as good as Roby and Howard.

Should Roby leave, the position becomes a little murkier.

Adam Griffin has only played spot duty at corner, and 2012 freshmen Armani Reeves, Devan Bogard and Najee Murray have only played special teams to this point.

The state of the defense will sort itself out much more in the spring, especially since OSU does not have its 15 bowl practices due to NCAA sanctions.

But the Buckeyes' young players on defense and their coaches have their work cut out for them.

The defense has been inconsistent for two years and will be put to the test even more next season because of the turnover on that side of the ball.

 

Follow me on Twitter @bielik_tim for the latest college football news and updates.

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